Barney Mthombothi wrote yesterday, in the Sunday Times: “The incumbent, Mosiuoa Lekota, had controversially been hounded out of office (as the first Free State Premier) and sent to parliament (in 1996) as an ordinary MP after a public falling out with some powerful figures in the province”. Jacob Zuma sent by the ANC to resolve the dispute in the Free State put the party before the constitution. In so doing, he signalled that the party would afford protection to those who acted corruptly and improperly.
Twelve years later, in 2008, Lekota who knew too well which way the wind was going to blow under Zuma as President, put country squarely before party and quit with a large number of us. Today, we marvel at his foresight and his accurate assessment of how things were going to pan out under Zuma. In 2011, Marius Redelinghuys wrote in the Mail and Guardian that Lekota was proving to be an “unwelcome prophet”.
From 2009, Lekota attacked not the person of Zuma but the President’s repeated failures to uphold his oath of office, or to defend the constitution. President Zuma quickly dropped the bar that President Nelson Mandela had raised so high. Lekota also fiercely attacked the expansion of the cabinet and the bloatedness of government in general as these were rapidly eroding scarce resources, creating social tension because of failed service delivery and jeopardising the economy.
President Zuma, Gwede Mantashe and Baleka Mbete created a triumvirate in 2008 to wield power as bluntly and as expensively as possible. “Which is why”, Mthombothi points out, “the ANC has been able to enforce party discipline on the obscenity that is Nkandlagate”.
In 2015, finally, President Zuma openly acknowledged that the ANC came before country. He pointed out in no uncertain terms how cold it is outside the ANC and just how warm, cosy and profitable it is inside of it. Under the “ruling cabal” and that is exactly what it is, “The party is supreme, the people mere pawns”.
In Lekota’s open letter to Gwede Mantashe, written on 3 October 2008, he pointedly observed, “When I joined the ANC, I was attracted by its policies, political culture, values, history and its commitment to the interests of our people – black and white. I am still as fervently committed to this cause as when I first joined the organisation. However, for some time now, I have lived with the growing sense that our leadership has veered the organisation away from the established policy priorities and customary democratic norms of the ANC”.
Lekota stated his position as publicly as possible so that he would continue to stand on the right side of history. He made it abundantly clear that “This state of affairs (in 2008) leaves me and many other comrades, no doubt, with a clear sense that our membership to the organisation is an endorsement of practices that are dangerous to the democracy that many people in our country struggled to bring into being”. Rather than endorse what the ANC was doing, he left to form the Congress of the People in order to defend the gains of democracy and to keep alive the ideals of the Freedom Charter.
What Lekota knew too well from 1996 is now becoming obvious to everyone in the nation. Hopefully citizens will act bravely and proactively to make sure that country always comes before every party in the country for every political leader.
Issued by Dennis Bloem, Cope spokesperson